Antigua and Barbuda

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Introduction to Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua's tourist office boasts that the island has 365 beaches, 'one for each day of the year'. It has great reefs and wrecks for diving and snorkelling. On neighbouring Barbuda you can track the island's fabled frigate birds and visit the Caribbean's largest rookery.

Barbuda is a quiet, single-village island that has less than 2% of the nation's population and gets very few independent visitors, mainly ardent bird watchers and a few yachties enjoying its clear waters and tranquil beaches. Antigua is a touch more happening, but the pace is still deliciously slow.

Full country name: Antigua and Barbuda

Area: 170 sq km

Population: 66,422

Capital City: Saint John's (Antigua)

Language: English

Religion: Anglican Church (about 50%), Roman Catholic, Moravian

Government: constitutional monarchy within the British Commonwealth

Head of State: Governor General Sir James Carlisle (representing Queen Elizabeth II)

Head of Government: Prime Minister Winston Baldwin Spencer

GDP: US$524 million

GDP per capita: US$8,200

Annual Growth: 2.8%

Inflation: 1.6%

Major Industries: Tourism, agriculture, fishing, light manufacturing

Major Trading Partners: USA, UK, Canada, Barbados, Guyana

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Traveler Facts

Visas: Visitors from the USA, Canada and the UK may enter the country for stays of less than six months with either a valid passport or a birth certificate with a raised seal and a photo ID. Most other visitors, including citizens of Australia, New Zealand and western European countries, must have passports but do not need visas. Officially all visitors need a round-trip or onward ticket.

Health risks: sunburn, diarrhoea, intestinal worms

Time Zone: GMT/UTC -4

Dialling Code: 268

Electricity: 230V ,60Hz

Weights & measures: Imperial



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Events

Antigua's Sailing Week is a major week-long yachting event that begins on the last Sunday in April, attracting about 150 boats. In addition to a series of five races, there are rum parties and a formal ball, with most activities taking place at Nelson's Dockyard and Falmouth Harbour. In June, Barbuda has a celebration of its own called Caribara.

Carnival, Antigua's big annual festival, is held from the end of July and culminates in a parade on the first Tuesday in August. Most Carnival activity takes place in St John's. Calypso music, steel bands, masqueraders, floats and street 'jump-ups' are all part of the celebrations. If you have enough energy by the last day to be up and dancing in the streets at 4am you can jump up during J'Overt, the climax of Carnival. The other major musical event is the annual Antiguan Jazz Festival, which takes place in October.

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Best time to Visit

Antigua and Barbuda are best visited during the cool and dry winter months (mid-December to mid-April), the peak tourist season. In January and February, the coolest months, the average daily high temperature is 81F (27C).

The islands get even hotter in the summer. In July and August, the warmest months, the average daily high is 86F (30C). It's less dry in the autumn (September to November), during the rainy season, though Antigua's fairly dry year-round.



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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Eastern Caribbean Dollar

Meals

Budget: US$5-10

Mid-range: US$10-20

High: US$20-70

Deluxe: US$70+

Lodging

Budget: US$15-50

Mid-range: US$50-200

High: US$200-350

Deluxe: US$350+

Travelling in comfort on Antigua can easily mean spending several hundred US dollars a day. A moderate budget will hover around US$100. A minimal budget might be around US$30-50 a day, but this won't leave anything for shopping, transport and activities.

US dollars are commonly used. However, unless rates are posted in US dollars (as is the norm with accommodations), it usually works out better to pay in EC dollars. MasterCard, Visa and American Express are widely accepted. Credit card charges are made in US dollars, so businesses that quote prices in EC dollars must convert the bill to a US dollar total. Whenever you intend to pay by credit card, it's a good idea to ask the exchange rate first to avoid overcharging.

A 10% service charge is added to most restaurant bills, in which case no further tipping is necessary.

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Attractions

St John's

St John's is Antigua's capital and commercial centre, and home to over a third of the country's population. It's also the island's tourist centre, but most of the city remains unaffected by international influence, remaining solidly West Indian in flavour.

St John's tourist activity is confined to the harbourfront complexes of Heritage Quay, a favourite with cruise ship passengers, and the more rustic Redcliffe Quay, where shops, restaurants and galleries inhabit restored stone buildings and wooden huts.

English Harbour

Once a naval base and now Antigua's most popular tourist attraction, English Harbour has the richest collection of historic sites on the island. You could easily spend the better part of a day roaming around the sites, which include restored buildings, hilltop forts and museums.

Don your gaiters and garden gloves for the 10-minute walk among cacti to Fort Berkeley, overlooking the harbour's western entrance. Other attractions include the governor's Georgian-style rural residence and Sandy Heights, which has scattered 18th-century fort ruins and excellent views.

Fort James

The small Fort James was first built in 1675, but most of the present structure dates from 1739. It still has a few of its original 36 cannons, a powder magazine and a fair portion of its walls intact.

Museum of Antigua & Barbuda

This community-run museum in St John's has an eclectic collection of displays on island history. There's a touchable section with stone pestles and conch-shell tools, a reconstructed Arawak house, and modest displays on natural history, the colonial era and the struggle for emancipation.

St John's Anglican Cathedral

This twin-spired cathedral, the town's dominant landmark, dates from 1847 and was built after the original 1681 church was devastated by an earthquake. The unusual interior is encased in pitch pine to buffer the building from damage by natural disasters.

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Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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